In Memory of Bob Ainsworth ’57

Bob Ainsworth—A Memoir

Class of 1957

During high school in Racine, WI, Bob Ainsworth raised money to attend Ripon by organizing a dance band which performed for hire in the Racine area.  At Ripon College, 1953-1957, Bob organized another band that performed at college and student events.  As a music major, Bob was a member and Assistant Director of the excellent Ripon College Concert Choir which performed concerts in the Chicago-New York corridor, including nationwide radio broadcasts through CBS.

One afternoon during a concert tour, the choir had finished its performance at a large high school in Illinois.  Though the curtain had closed, the audience of students had to remain in their seats until their next class period started. Backstage, we were getting our gowns off and heading out to our bus, when it was discovered that Bob was missing.  The Director and a couple of us students searched for Bob.  We discovered that Bob, realizing that the students were still in the auditorium, could not ignore a live audience.  Bob had peeked through the curtain, made a funny face to the bored students and shoved the piano out on to the stage, to an explosive cheer from the students. He sat down and accompanied himself in singing funny songs and telling crazy jokes to the applauding students—classic Bob!

One day at Ripon, Bob was asked if he knew any dog jokes.  Bob proceeded to reel off about 6 or 7 jokes in 30 minutes- all were dog jokes- and all were good ones. Bob would say, “Pick a random subject, any subject.” Then he would proceed to tell us eight or ten jokes on that subject.

After graduation Bob entered the Army as an officer (retiring as a Major).  Bob was assigned as a battalion tank commander in Germany.  In 1961, he was the head of a tank battalion which confronted a Russian tank group in downtown Berlin at Check Point Charlie.  The Russians were attempting to take over the U.S., British, and French Sectors of the city to isolate Berlin from Allied troops and supplies. In a very dangerous international crisis, the Russian tanks backed down to Bob’s battalion-to Russia’s embarrassment and to the Allies’ relief.  It was an extremely dangerous situation in a cold war about to get hot.  Bob waived off praises for his role by telling everyone that he was so scared he started singing Ripon College songs…

After 20 years of service, Bob retired from the Army and promptly volunteered to serve as a foreign missionary of World Vision International, for the next 43 years of his life.  He was the first American allowed into Cambodia, helping to provide food and medical services and supervising construction of vast improvement programs in several Asian countries.

World Vision sent Bob and his team to help in remote islands in Southeast Asia, which contained tribes of Cannibals and other unfriendly people.  He was confronted by an angry, threatening Chief of a tribe reported to ambush outsiders.  Nevertheless, Bob tried to calm down the Chief by showing him an L-shaped flashlight that had several colored lenses.  The Chief was stunned to see the bright light with flashing colors.  Bob promptly gave the flashlight to the Chief and quickly departed.

Several months later Bob returned to the same area and was happily greeted by the chief, who proudly showed Bob the colorful flashlight, which the Chief had strapped to his penis.

First in the Army overseas and then as a missionary for World Vision, Bob’s post-graduate life for 63 years confirm his long service to America and to Ripon College.


Ray Besing

Class of ‘57